Volvo, Volvo, Volvo. What happened? Where did you go and why? What does the future look like? I have missed the soothing tones of Donald Sutherland, calmly telling us about you.
Volvo, some of us have missed you. I know Volvo dealers who have, too, and I know one in particular who sold the family store to a big dealer group and now splits his time between the Okanagan Valley and the desert in the United States.
Oh, Volvo. I have owned your cars. Sweden, where you come from ... Stockholm is a magnificent gem of a city, the Venice of the northern hemisphere, and even grey, dreary Gothenburg – where Volvo is headquartered – has its charms and a terrific university.
But these last few years have been a struggle, and even near the end of 2013, with plenty of new-model news to share, Volvo’s sales in Canada are down 20 per cent. Ah, but not in China …
For September, Volvo retailed as many cars in China (5,719) as Volvo Canada is likely to sell this year. Globally, Volvo sales are up 13.5 per cent. Volvo is alive and might perhaps even have the time and resources to pay more attention to Canada now – where Volvo was once the No. 1 premium brand.
Volvo’s China focus is hardly surprising. In late summer 2010, Ford sealed a deal to sell Volvo to Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. of China for $1.5-billion (U.S.) in cash and equivalents. Volvo’s management remains headquartered in Sweden, but the owners are in China. Plenty of reports say the owners are pushing for quick and profitable growth in China, though there is also talk of discord between the owners and Volvo’s management about where to spend money on future products.
A former senior executive at Volvo recently told me that Ford left Volvo’s cupboard almost completely bare when the deal was done. Stripped clean of product investment from Ford, Volvo has been working to replenish the product pipeline. In the auto industry, product cycles are four years or so. Do the math. If Ford emptied Volvo before leaving, then the rebuild will take at least until the summer of next year to show significant results.
In any case, I have vowed to stop lamenting the state of things at Volvo Cars. In the words of hockey player and noted philosopher Todd Bertuzzi, “It is what it is.”
What I can tell you is that I just spent a week in an updated 2014 Volvo XC60 and it’s a nice rig. I am not surprised the XC60 is Volvo’s best-selling vehicle in China and also around the world. The XC60 is a handsome crossover wagon and my tester was stuffed with goodies – from a 325-horsepower, turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine to all-wheel drive, textured leather-covered sport seats as good as any in the business to safety features such as blind spot detection. As equipped: $57,845, though the base T6 Platinum lists for $52,850.
The number sounds big, but we’re not talking about an excessive amount of dough for a crossover of this sort. Volvo aims the XC60 at the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Cadillac SRX and Mercedes-Benz GLK350. Lofty territory.
I ran my XC60 tester through a pricing comparison, looking to see where it stands against comparably equipped rivals. I’d expected to see the Volvo come in cheaper by a few grand versus, say, the German models. which all are from stronger brands.
An XC60 Platinum is $1,100 cheaper than a comparably equipped Q5 3.0T Premium Plus, and the Volvo has an even better $1,845 price advantage over a like-minded Mercedes GLK350. But the Volvo is about $1,300 more expensive than a BMW X3 xDrive 35i. Against the Caddy, pricing is a wash.
I will throw out the usual pricing caveats, however. Volvo does have sales sweeteners in play on the XC60, and they’re fatter than what I could find on offer from the Germans. Be ready to bargain if you like the XC60.
I certainly liked it, once I figured out the infotainment system. Pairing my mobile phone was easy enough, but figuring out how to tune the radio proved more onerous. I eventually became a finely tuned part of my Volvo machine-man interface, though. And without even cracking the manual.
More than anything, I liked the ride comfort here. The German crossovers all have fairly firm suspensions, but the Volvo is just that little bit softer. Not soft, no. But softer and more pleasant for city streets that, no matter where you live in Canada, seem to be in an embarrassing state of disrepair.
There’s lot of power, the safety scores look good and the cabin is comfortable and decorated with useful storage spaces. All in all, a nice family wagon. What has happened to Volvo? As far as the XC60 goes, only good things.
2014 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD Platinum
Type: Compact crossover
Base price: $52,850 (destination charge $1,720); as tested, $57,845
Engines: 3.0-litre six-cylinder, turbocharged
Horsepower/torque: 325 hp/354 lb-ft
Transmissions: Six-speed automatic
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 11.6 city/8.0 highway
Alternatives: Audi Q5, BMW X3, Cadillac SRX, Mercedes-Benz GLK
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